So I take a peak at the Web this morning and learn, from a bunch of right-wing sites, that 72 refugees from the seven “banned” countries have been convicted of terrorism. Like it says here.
How do we recognize this headline as bullshit? Let me count the ways.
First, you might be experiencing cognitive dissonance. If there were acts of terrorism on U.S. soil by Muslim refugees from the seven banned countries, how come we haven’t heard about it? So far, the so-called president and his aides have been unable to identify a single terrorist attack that news media haven’t covered. And lots of people across the political spectrum have been saying there have been no such attacks on U.S. soil.
The best I can come up with is this, from Politifact:
Experts on terrorism tell us that since 9/11 no one in the United States has been killed in a terrorist attack by someone from the seven countries for which Trump’s executive order temporarily suspends admission. Those countries are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
But there have been at least three non-deadly cases in which the perpetrator was connected to Iran or Somalia.
And these are?
One of those examples includes the November 2016 attack at Ohio State University by a Somali refugee who had lived in Pakistan before coming to the United States. Abdul Razak Ali Artan, 18, was shot dead by a police officer after he slammed his car into pedestrians and injured others with a butcher knife. The FBI said it would investigate the attack as a “potential act of terrorism.”
In September 2016, Dahir Adan was shot dead after stabbing nine people in a Minnesota shopping mall. Adan was identified by his father as Somali but born in Kenya, moving to the United States when he was a child.
Another incident was in 2006, when Mohammed Reza Taheri-Azar ran a Jeep Cherokee into a crowd of people at his alma mater, the University of North Carolina. Thinking he would be killed during the attack, Taheri-Azar left a letter in his apartment saying he wanted revenge for the deaths of Muslims across the world caused by the United States, the AP reported. A naturalized citizen born in Iran, Taheri-Azar in 2008 plead guilty to nine counts of attempted first-degree murder and was sentenced for up to 33 years in prison.
I don’t think Dahir Adan should count; it appears he wasn’t really from Somalia. But we’ll give the wingnuts two would-be terrorists from the seven banned countries, although I don’t believe either was convicted of terrorism. Which means the Washington Examiner may have been confused when it published this:
Since 9/11, 72 individuals from the seven mostly Muslim countries covered by President Trump’s “extreme vetting” executive order have been convicted of terrorism, bolstering the administration’s immigration ban.
We get another clue from reading the article, which breaks down the “convicted” by country — 20 from Somalia, 19 from Yemen, etc. — but gives us no clue whatsoever what any of them actually did.
We get an even bigger clue when we read that the source of this information is something called the Center for Immigration Studies, which even the Daily Beast calls a “false fact think tank.” Right Wing Watch says that CIS was founded by a white nationalist named John Tanton, and you can read RWW’s archive of John Tanton articles here.
The CIS itself says that it got its list of 72 convicted terrorists from a Senate subcommittee:
In June 2016 the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, then chaired by new Attorney General Jeff Sessions, released a report on individuals convicted in terror cases since 9/11. Using open sources (because the Obama administration refused to provide government records), the report found that 380 out of 580 people convicted in terror cases since 9/11 were foreign-born. The report is no longer available on the Senate website, but a summary published by Fox News is available here.
Jeff Sessions = big, red bullshit flag. But let’s continue.
From the CIS site one can indeed download an Excel file listing the 72 convicted persons and what they were convicted of. Let us assume this is a real list of actual convicted people and not something made up out of thin air.
There are actually 74 people on the list. Several of them were charged in October 2001 or shortly thereafter and convicted of things like passport forgery and unlicensed financial transactions. Whether the poor buggers were really guilty of anything or just got caught up in the hysteria of the times, we’ll probably never know.
Going up the list, but still in the Bush II years, we find a lot of people convicted of “conspiracy” (of what?) and things like procurement of naturalization by fraud, false statements, violation of export license laws, and “neutrality violation.” A few were convicted of unlawful firearm or explosive device possession. So it may be that some of these people had violent intentions but were caught before the intentions were carried out. I notice one guy convicted of using a firearm in a crime; maybe he held up a liquor store. The convicted persons are all listed as affiliated with various terrorist organizations, but whether that’s true or something added by a Senate staffer with a vivid imagination, we have no way to know.
More recently, 19 of the 74 people were charged and convicted during the Obama Administration, but none after 2011. Even though this list was compiled in 2016, it says, we see nothing on this list that happen more recently than six years ago. (In fact, we don’t know when this stuff happened; the dates tell us when the convicted persons were first charged.) Which suggests that the threat from the seven banned countries isn’t such a clear and present danger that we have to tear up the Constitution to deal with it.
Perhaps the travel restrictions and vetting requirements that the Obama Administration already had in place were doing the job of keeping us safe just fine. Imagine that.
The hysteria currently circulating on right-wing websites is that the 9th circuit court hid this information, somehow, and they are playing with our lives. Although one wonders why the Justice Department didn’t submit it into evidence, if it was so compelling.